'Waiting till you're ready to drown.' He smiled and eased back down on the seat. 'And then I'm going to save your life. Dan did it for Phoebe, and I'm going to do it for you.'

'Dan didn't try to murder her first!' she screamed.

'I go the extra mile.'

'Of all the stupid-' She caught another mouthful, coughed, and tried to say more. Unfortunately, she was sinking back under.

He was in the water waiting for her when she came up-hair dripping in his eyes, Daphne plastered to his chest, his green eyes dancing with the sheer pleasure of being alive, in love, and having such a good time. There was no woman on earth who could entertain him the way she could. And no woman who would ever love him more.

Which didn't mean she was giving in without a fight. 'By the time you save me,' she pointed out, 'I'll be too tired to do anything but sleep.'

Seconds later she watched the sweatshirt sink to the bottom of the lake without her.

'That was fun.' Kevin's smile was a mile wide, and his eyes were misty with something other than lake water.

'Not in front of the children.' Her eyes were misty, too, as she tugged off his Daphne T-shirt.

They made love in the shadow of the rowboat, holding on to the gunwale and each other, choking and gasping, first one of them underwater and then the other, two daredevils who'd found their perfect mate. Afterward they gazed into each other's eyes, not saying anything, just feeling peaceful and absolutely perfect.


Found in a notebook tucked under the gazebo at the Wind Lake Campground. Author unknown-although there are suspicions.

All the animals in nightingale woods gathered for the christening. Daphne wore her second-best rhinestone tiara (she'd misplaced her best at a road rally). Benny polished his mountain bike until it shone. Melissa dazzled with a swirly scarf from the rue Faubourg Saint-Honore, and her new husband Leo the Bullfrog created a beautiful painting in honor of the occasion.

The ceremony took place under a shady tree. The animals waited until it was over to scurry out from the shadows of the gingerbread cottages and move among the guests, invisible to all but the very smallest of humans.

Victoria Phoebe Tucker blinked down at Benny from her perch on her father's shoulder, her green eyes alive with curiosity. What's up, dude?

'What's up yourself?'

Hey, you look familiar.

'I know your dad pretty well.'

Daphne hopped forward. 'Bonjour, Victoria Phoebe, and welcome to Nightingale Woods.' She cast an admiring glance at the frothy confection of white lace and pink ribbons that enveloped the baby and draped her father's large, tan arm. Victoria Phoebe already had an eye for fashion. 'I'm Daphne, and this is Benny. We stopped by to introduce ourselves.'

'And see if you wanted to play some football,' Benny added.

Victoria Phoebe stuffed a pink ribbon from her christening cap into her mouth. You might have noticed I'm sort of tied up right now.

'Sarcastic like her mother,' Murphy Mouse noted.

Victoria Phoebe's father reached up to retrieve the ribbon. She went after his hand and took a few chomps on her favorite teether, his brand-new Super Bowl ring. He kissed her forehead and exchanged a special smile with her mother, who stood at his side. Nearby her Aunt Phoebe gazed happily at the new family that her special talent for deception had helped create.

'I don't recognize all of the big people,' Leo the Bullfrog said, 'but I sure know the little ones-the Calebows and Bonners, the Denton children from Telarosa, Texas, and isn't that a Traveler over there?'

Victoria Phoebe liked being in the know, and she abandoned the Super Bowl ring to point out some of the adult guests. All those giant men are Daddy's playmates. And over there are Uncle Cal's brothers with the mommies and kids. Aunt Jane is talking to Uncle Dan right now. She's pretty nice, but she tried to write something on my leg last night when she was holding me, and Daddy had to take her pen away.

'We've had complaints before,' Daphne said. 'Your mother looks particularly fetching.'

And she smells totally awesome-like flowers and cookies. I love my mom. She tells the best stories.

'Like, duh,' Benny said.

Daphne poked him, but Victoria Phoebe was snuggling into her father's neck and didn't notice. She peeked back up. This is my daddy dear. He says I'm his very special girl, but not to tell Mommy, except he always says it in front of her, and then they laugh.

'You have very nice parents,' Melissa observed politely.

I know, but they kiss my cheeks too much. I'm getting chapped.

'I remember Rosie Bonner used to complain about the same thing.'

Rosie Bonner! Victoria Phoebe grew indignant. Last night she tried to hide me in the litter box because I was getting too much attention, but Hannah distracted her with a cookie. I loooove Hannah.

'She's always been our special friend,' Daphne said. 'We played with her a lot when she was your age.'

Don't you play with her now?

The animals exchanged glances. 'Not in the same way,' Benny said. 'Things change. Stuff happens.'

Victoria Phoebe was a future summa cum laude, so not much got past her. What kind of stuff?

'Children can only see us when they're very young,' Melissa explained kindly. 'As they get older, they lose the power.'

That bites.

'But they can read about us in books,' Murphy Mouse added, 'which is nearly as good.'

'Books that are making your mother a ton of money,' Leo pointed out. 'Although not as much as my paintings.'

Victoria Phoebe grew huffy. Forgive me very much, but reading doesn't hold a lot of appeal at the moment. I'm still trying to cope with diaper rash.

'Definitely sarcastic,' Celia the Hen clucked.

Daphne, who appreciated sarcasm, decided it was time for more explanation. 'Even though you won't be able to see us as you get older, Victoria Phoebe, we'll be around watching out for you and all your brothers.'


'We're sort of like guardian angels,' Melissa interjected hastily.

'Furry ones,' Benny added.

'The point is,' Daphne said patiently. 'You'll never be alone.'

Exactly how many brothers? Victoria Phoebe asked. And then, Oops! Gotta go! as her father passed her over to her mother.

The creatures watched Kevin pick up a glass of lemonade from the table under the trees. 'I'd like to propose a toast,' he said. 'To all our friends and the family that means so much to me. Especially to my mother, Lilly, who came into my life at just the right time. And my sister-in-law, Phoebe, who is almost as good at matchmaking as she is at running a football team.' He turned, cleared his throat, and sounded sniffy. 'And to my wife… the love of my life.'

Victoria Phoebe peered around her mother's arm. Here they go with the kissing again. Right now

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